After three decades of study, CERN scientists can now measure antimatter by a few parts of a trillion units, the most precise measurement ever made.
The study, which was published Wednesday in the journal Nature, culminated what physicists have known about antimatter. Early theorists thought that an equal amount of matter and antimatter were produced during the Big Bang.
The mystery lies in the question of why did matter survive and antimatter has become a rare object in the universe.
Scientists from the European Organization for Nuclear Research, also known as CERN, sought to answer if the behavior of antimatter is similar to matter. To do this, it is crucial they measure antimatter's energy.
The ALPHA team made antihydrogen atoms using the Antiproton Decelerator and then combining it with positrons from sodium-22. To get the right mixture, 90,000 antiprotons were combined 3 million positrons to produce a total of 50,000 antihydrogen atoms.
The antihydrogen atoms were then trapped in a magnetic field before hitting it with a laser light. Its response to the light was then compared to that of the common hydrogen atom. The same process was conducted in 2016 where scientists were able to measure antimatter in a couple of parts in 10 billion.
The latest development takes antihydrogen spectroscopy to a higher level. Through this trial and error, the ALPHA team is able to measure antimatter based on its shapes and colors; hence, the more precise number.
"The precision achieved in the latest study is the ultimate accomplishment for us. We have been trying to achieve this precision for 30 years and have finally done it," said Jeffrey Hangst, a spokesperson for the ALPHA team.
Although the progress made with the antimatter is short with what scientists have known for the common hydrogen, Hangst said it definitely transforms the paradigm of the matter community.
Antimatter's Role In The Universe
The concept of antimatter explains that everything in the universe has its mirror image. For example, protons have anti-protons, electrons for positrons, and neutrinos for anti-neutrinos. Scientists believed that these atoms behave in certain symmetry, which further mystifies why matter has become dominant in the universe.
The idea that matter and antimatter are symmetrical contradicts the mere existence of the universe. A related research published in Nature in October 2017 concluded that there should be a slight difference in how antimatter behaves from matter to be able to explain the evolution of the universe.
"All of our observations find a complete symmetry between matter and antimatter, which is why the universe should not actually exist," said Christian Smorra, the lead author of the study and a physicist. "An asymmetry must exist here somewhere but we simply do not understand where the difference is."